Exhibitions/ Art Object

Ewer with dancing females within arcades

ca. 6th–7th century A.D.
Silver, mercury gilding
H. of (a) 34 cm
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. C. Douglas Dillon Gift and Rogers Fund, 1967
Accession Number:
67.10a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 405
Late Sasanian silver vessels, particularly bottles and ewers, often were decorated with female figures holding a variety of festal objects. The appearance of these motifs attests to the continuing influence of Greek imagery associated with the wine god Dionysus. On this silver-gilt vessel, floral arches, supported by low pilasters, frame four dancing female figures. Each holds a ceremonial object in either hand: grape and leaf branches, a vessel, a heart-shaped flower. Beneath one arcade, birds peck at fruit, and beneath another a tiny panther drinks from a ewer. Both the females and their decorative motifs recall representations of the maenads, attendants of Dionysus. However, it has been suggested that these figures have been adapted to the cult of the Iranian goddess Anahita. No texts survive to explain the appearance or function of these female figures, but it seems likely that vessels decorated with motifs such as these would have been intended to hold wine for court celebrations or religious festivals.
Acquired by the Museum in 1967, purchased from Nuri Farhadi and Habib Anavian, New York.

“Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries: The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971.

“Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions 1965-1975,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976.

“Wealth of the Roman World: Gold and Silver AD 300-700,” The British Museum, London, April 1–October 1, 1977.

“The Royal Hunter: Art of the Sasanian Empire,” Asia House Gallery, New York, The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1978.

“Weihrauch und Seide: Alte Kulturen an der Seidenstraße,” Palais Harrach, Vienna, January 21–April 14, 1996.

"Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th century," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 14–July 8, 2012.

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